Last time, we got to meet Dragos’s mob of growling aliens in hairy costumes. In this episode, John Berwick gets to play one who has a gorilla’s body and a one-eyed spider head by the name of Tehor. Berwick had played Matt Prentiss in an episode each of Space Academy and Jason. The episode is written by Margaret Armen, who had earlier written a pair of Land of the Lost stories.
I’ve never actually seen this season of Jason before. I watched the first episode several years ago, but the rest of this is all new to me, despite my being precisely the target age for the program when it first aired in 1979. CBS aired it at noon on Saturday mornings, which was probably far too late for me to still be watching TV when there was outside playing to be done. Despite some different characters, it’s tonally identical to the first season, which I remember enjoying, so I can’t imagine deliberately tuning out, certainly not to watch either the ABC Weekend Special or repeats of Jonny Quest, which I never enjoyed (it’s okay; everybody else enjoyed it twice as much), so I must have just wanted to go play. After five-odd hours in front of the TV every Saturday, something surely had to give.
Anyway, our son says that this episode was both “scary” and “cool.” He didn’t like it when two of Tehor’s hench-monsters jumped from behind a rock and captured Samantha, but Samantha is strong enough to bend the bars of her cage and escape. Whew!
The story gets a little stranger, for me, in these two chapters. For some reason, the Filmation people chose to wait quite late in the day to introduce some more solid elements from Space Academy. So in chapter 9, the cute robot Peepo joins the proceedings, and chapter 10 is given over to rescuing Lt. Matt Prentiss, from the Academy’s Red Team, from Dragos’s “time dimension” trap. We met Prentiss, played by John Berwick, in episode eleven of Academy.
This is such an odd choice. If you wanted to strengthen the ties between the two programs, why not bring back any of the six young lead characters from the earlier show, and not a one-off guest star? I suppose they couldn’t have asked Jonathan Harris back to play Gampu for a week, because James Doohan is wearing Harris’s costume. (grin)
Our son was very pleased with chapter nine, less so with the strange science of ten. Chapter nine has Peepo and W1K1 arguing with each other. This is extra-cute because Peepo was designed as the R2-D2 cash-in, but now this robot takes the C-3PO role to get all prissy and worried while the small companion babbles in beeps and bloops.
Here’s another example of the show doing a downright great job acting and producing a script that makes Dr. Science’s head hurt. Everything about the production of this series is so much better than anything Filmation had done before. The miniature work is top-notch, and all the actors are doing a splendid job, and then they blow it with some gobbledygook about knocking asteroids together to create a new star.
And what really grated was that they could have left it with “we need to smash this asteroid into the other one that has a runaway reactor; we can rebuild later.” That would have been silly, in a “we take shortcuts on sci-fi TV” way, but no, they had to make the happy claim that this has created a “natural sun” and all the problems are solved. Marie closed her eyes and winced as this nonsense happened. “Dr. Science hates this show,” she moaned.
But never mind the fuddy-duddies. This episode was so exciting for our son that he couldn’t decide what his favorite part was. He seemed to enjoy the simmering antagonism between Chris and a guest character from Red Team named Matt Prentiss, who was played by John Berwick. Surprisingly, Berwick would play the character again in at least one episode of the next season’s spinoff, Jason of Star Command. Berwick went on to play Rex Ruthless in Filmation’s Hero High and had a small role in Goliath Awaits, one of those two-part TV movies that were common in the eighties, and which I’d badly like to see again one day.